Powerful testimonies of new generations of servicemen and women who have survived conflicts around the globe will echo through a corner of the capital to encourage the nation to rethink its annual acts of remembrance.
Broadcast in an area of central London that was devastated by aerial bombardment in The Blitz during the Second World War, the tales of younger veterans, including North Yorkshire’s Anna Pollock, are intended to help the public to better understand who they are supporting when they buy a paper poppy to adorn their jackets in November.
The interactive video installation, unveiled yesterday on seven monoliths in the once-bombed Paternoster Square, now the location of the London Stock Exchange, features four 60-second films produced by the Royal British Legion.
Each film tells a story of conflict or injury narrated by a Second World War veteran aged between 88 and 97 in military dress with some proudly wearing berets and medals. At the end of each video it is revealed that the stories do not belong to the speaker but to a younger veteran or member of the Armed Forces aged between 29 and 34.
One of the video documents the experiences of Ms Pollock, 34, from Catterick. The former Royal Air Force medic is reliant on a wheelchair following a sudden bleed on her spine.
Her story is narrated by Royal Naval veteran Jim Radford, 88, from London - thought to be Britain’s youngest D-Day veteran.
“I love the feeling of being strong - I’m not weak, I’m a warrior,” Mr Radford reads.
“I’ll never stop mourning the person I used to be but I’m beginning to like the person I’ve become.”
A survey of 1,000 adults found remembrance, the poppy, and the Royal British Legion’s work are most associated with the First and Second World Wars and elderly veterans.
Just over a third of those surveyed identified remembrance with thinking about those who are currently serving.
Claire Rowcliffe, director of fundraising at the Royal British Legion, said: “Individuals and families from across the generations of our Armed Forces community need the Legion’s support, as well as our older veterans.
“When you pin on your poppy, or pause to remember, we’re inviting you to rethink Remembrance and who it is you picture when you think of a veteran.
“The Royal British Legion’s vital work wouldn’t be possible without the public’s generous support, and we hope through our campaign this year we will help people understand who they are supporting when they donate.
“Please wear your poppy with pride in recognition of all generations of the British Armed Forces who have served to defend the freedom we enjoy today.”
The optical-illusion video installation features seven multi-screen columns, the tallest standing at four metres high, and it can be explored from different perspectives. From a specific viewing point, the screens unite to create a single image.
The installation is available for the public to view until late tomorrow but all four videos can also be viewed online and those who tune in are encouraged to share their experiences on social media using the hashtag #RethinkRemembrance.
The fundraising target for this year’s Poppy Appeal is a record £43m, with more than 45 million poppies set to be distributed by 150,000 dedicated collectors across the country.
RAISE A GLASS TO ARMED FORCES
East Yorkshire brewery Wold Top has produced a limited edition cask beer to raise money for the North and East Yorkshire Poppy Appeal.
Wold Top Brewery’s Remember, a light beer at 4.2 per cent ABV, will be available at selected pubs in North and East Yorkshire between November 1-13.
For each of the 54 casks sold, the Wold Newton based brewery will donate £10 to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.
Brewery director Gill Mellor said: “We would like to encourage as many people to join us in enjoying a great beer that will benefit the Poppy Appeal during Remembrancetide.”